Dogwoods and tulips – Fond Memories

It’s spring in Mississippi and two my favorite flowers or flowering plants are making me remember.

For me it’s not spring until I see the Dogwood start to bloom out.  Easter is a little late on the calendar this year but usually it is right at or around Easter when they bloom out so pretty.  I always notice a Dogwood tree. I never pass up the opportunity to appreciate it’s beauty and to remember the little Dogwood that my dad had in the front yard of my childhood home.  I never think of Dogwoods that I don’t think about my dad.  He’s been dead just over 12 years now and as I write about it is seems like yesterday. I miss my dad. I miss his strong hand on everything that took place around him in our family.  Things never got too far gone that daddy couldn’t reign us all in with a look or, if need be, a more commanding “that’s enough”.

I believed my dad could put pencils in the ground and grow pine trees.  He was a master gardener. I played under a particular pecan tree in our backyard that he grafted himself from stock he found in the backwoods. A tree that a local pecan orchard offered him a substantial amount of money if he would let them take the tree and use cuttings from it to make a multitude of other pecan trees (it was that unusually great for commercial pecans).  He refused. Just couldn’t bear to cut the tree down or use it up that way. Too many years invested in nurturing it, protecting it and loving it into maturity. He knew that tree deeply. He did the same for all four of his children. Yea, Dogwoods remind me of my dad….I miss my dad.

Then there’s the tulips.  I fell in love with tulips about the time I had my first really real, sure enough, bonafide, hopelessly head over heels, love.  I was blessed enough to have a chance to spend the better part of eight months living in The Netherlands working as a semester missionary at a small church in the little town of Wassenaar.  That was 28 years ago and as I write this it still feels like yesterday.  Oh how I loved The Netherlands.  All green and lush, and crowded together, and full of color and life.  It was a 180° different world from Misssissippi to be certain. I would ride my motorcycle, really a moped but it looked like a dirt bike, to the beach almost every day to see the sun set over the North Sea.  And the smells. What glorious aromas came from that land. Fresh cheese, stropewaffles on the street, pannekokken, flowers everywhere and the tulips. Acres of them in too many colors to remember.  The smell I remember most, the one that transports and raptures me back to The Netherlands, is the mix of soil, and dung and peat that you get as you ride through the country side.  Folks who live there will know what I’m writing about. It’s indescribable. For some it’s detestable. To me, it’s a perfume unlike any other.

I miss The Netherlands. I had a wonderful time there. I grew so much as a person, on my own, tending to the lives and hearts of others and learning who I was and what I could do on a grand adventure. It was a beautiful time of my life. One I will treasure until my Savior takes me home. I hope heaven is a little like The Netherlands.

Dogwoods and tulips. Two of my favorite things in this world. Reminding me of the best man I ever knew and some of the best moments of my life. Oh that my God would bless the lives of those who so richly touched mine in The Netherlands. Oh that he would tell my daddy that his boy misses him and will see him again soon. Thanks to the hope we share in a Savior named Jesus Christ, who made it all possible.  Who made it all. So we would remember.  Christ is risen and I am free.

First Aid Kit – What a relief

With the impending section hike now on the horizon, one of the matters of concern for me was a FAK or First Aid Kit.  Admittedly, I am no doctor and I genuinely stink as a patient. I do follow orders well.  I’m nothing if not obedient.  Chalk that up to the Navy/OCD father I grew up knowing, loving and, in some small way, aspiring to be like.  I have been Red Cross trained on CPR adult and infant and I have the general understanding on how to stop bleeding, close a wound, or administer general first aid. While I’m really calm in a major crisis, just one of my many stupid human tricks, I wouldn’t be able to reattach a severed appendage or do a field tracheotomy.  If you’re as old as me you just had a flash of Radar and Father Mulcahy doing that on an episode of M.A.S.H..  Cool, old farts unite!

So I did a little research among my hammock peers and asked a few open ended questions then scoured the local Walgreen’s, CVS, Fred’s, Dollar Tree, WalMart, and Dollar General for the items I felt I needed to complete my FAK.  I just realized I have every one of those stores in a two mile radius of each other in my home town.  Not sure what that says about my city.  Not sure what that says about me, but I digress.

Here are a few shots of my kit.  What I carried it all in was a important to me as what I put into the carrier.  This is, in fact, a diabetic travel pack.  Meant to carry the monitor, insulin, sharps, etc.  Since it unzipped and had pockets I felt it fit the bill nicely.  It isn’t ultralight but I’ll stress over that at a later date. 

FAK zipped

Here is the carry opened up.  I liked the pockets and a simple divider on one side.  Something that appeals to the OCD in me as well.

FAK open

Lastly, the contents of the FAK.  I know this will change over time as I find other lighter options and other items to add or things to remove.   Contents: Neosporan spray, in straws - ibuprofin, tylenol ;sealed pack imodium, BC powder, wound clot, steri stripes, Kinetic tape, mole skin, mirror, super glue, tick twist, folding scissors, spray hand sanitizer, cotton balls, safty pins, nail clippers, toothbrush w/paste, razor blade, aquamira, toothpicks. (not shown): tweezers, needle/thread.

FAK contents

This seems to be a pretty good set up for me.  I say that to emphasize the point that what works for me may not be the thing for others.  Everyone has their own ways to manage pain, medicate, and deal with their own particular basket of ailments and maladies. The idea of physician heal thyself may apply here and you’ll know what will work best for you.  Hopefully this will give you an idea or two and get your motor running on what you would include in your own version of a FAK.

I know that this has proven to be a valuable asset to me already.  At a group hang/hike this past weekend a fellow hammock guy was complaining about a sinus headache.  Others around the campfire were offering up what they had, tylenol, ibuprophin, etc.  I asked what he was dealing with and offered up a BC powder packet from my FAK. He jumped on it and stated he was much improved the next morning. This was great but where the kit really showed its worth was earlier in the day when a sudden attack of the galloping giddy ups hit me on the trail. First time I thought it was no big deal but the second event another 30 minutes later told me I was in trouble unless I did something about it. FAK to the rescue as I had some imodium in the kit. I never take the stuff in my normal day to day breathing in and out. The fact that I had it was a matter of Divine intervention in my opinion and the rest of the hike was UNeventful in that department. I won’t leave home without my FAK ever again.  

Go do a little research and make a list of what you think you would use and set up your own FAK. You’ll be glad you did.  It was certainly a relief to me.

I Kilt Myself

Well I promised a post on a surprise fashion statement a bit back so here it is.  

Noah and Kilted Father

Yes, that is me in a kilt.  Not a dress, a skirt or, heaven help us, skorts.  The better looking fellow to the right is my A number 1 son, chief hiking partner and all around best kid I know.   He gets bonus points because he thinks dad in a kilt is okay.  

I am a member of a hammock forum (hammockforums.net) and there are a number of men there who have taken to hiking in kilts. It is a topic of intermittent discussion and has a lot of people interested and thinking on the subject if not actually pulling the trigger and jumping in with both feet. I’ll wait for you to form the mental image of someone jumping into a kilt with….aahhhh, there it is. SO the topic has been discussed and I’ve looked several times at different vendors but not until I decided to do this section hike on the AT was it a matter of true consideration.  Hold on. That’s a lie.  Truth was I was doing what all men do.  We make up our mind on something then we wait for, work on, manufacture or manipulate a justification why this or that is what we are going to do. I wanted to do this from the start and the AT hike was the excuse I needed to justify the choice, if not explain it to some level.  Ok, that feels better to come clean on that.  It should also be stated that I have some Scots/Irish heritage and kilts are a part of that culture and thus I wanted that to be part of me in this day.

The boy and I went hiking this past weekend in a particular slice of heaven in northwest Alabama called the Sipsey Wilderness and so I took the opportunity to try out the kilt in a real world hiking experience.  

I found it to be a breath of fresh air.  I’ll wait for you to….oh, never mind, you’re already there.  In comparison to hiking in pants or shorts, I found it to be cooler. As the day went on and the temperature increased and we were up on the ridges, I could feel a remarkable difference in the temperature…down…there. Can you tell this is awkward to write about?

Bottom line is, it was a more comfortable mode of apparel for hiking than I imagined and like the look as well.  I caught a lot of ribbing from the other guys at camp but I gave as good as I got on that score.  The funny part was that for every guy who gave me the business about the kilt, there were just as many who wanted to know where I got it, how was it to wear and did I like it or not.  Some of whom were the same guys wearing me out about it in front of the others. 

One other item of note.  You need to be secure in who you are to go this route, if not someone who has a mischievous streak.  I am fortunate to have both.  I took great pleasure in the looks, turned to stares, turned to “Ooo, I got busted”, turned to hushed whispers from folks I passed in public places. There were more than a few smiles from pretty ladies which, in my book is a bonus. Now if I can just convince the boss to make this standard issue work uniform.  What?  It could happen.

The Fear…

Irrational fear.  One of the more self explanatory terms I know of. This type of fear doesn’t make sense, at least not to those hearing or seeing it exhibited in the person having it, and sometimes not even to the person having the fear.  A pastor friend of mine is highly claustrophobic. Hates enclosed, tight spaces.  He is a large man. Not fat, just a big guy. A man’s man at that. So to see him and to hear or know he has that fear is, well, irrational.  Hence the definition.

As I’m planning on this section hike, there are a lot of things I find myself being fearful about. Now, let’s be clear. Not terrified.  Not frozen with fear. Just anxious about things that I really should not be anxious about.

For example, rain.  Have I seen rain before? Yes. Have I gotten wet in the past and not freaked out about it? Yes. Am I worried about rain on this section hike? Yes, yes I am. Why?  I really don’t know. I have rain gear, a pack cover, and the dry things will be able to stay dry as I have packed appropriately. Will things get wet that shouldn’t? Of course they will.  I am a strong believer in Murphy.  He WILL show up and mess with you at any and every opportunity.  Planning and organization are strong banes to this imp but stuff will happen.  So, why worry about the rain?  Still don’t know. Maybe hypothermia is in the back of my mind.  Maybe it’s just the thought of being alone in the “wilderness” in foul weather.  Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, severe weather doesn’t worry me.  I know, crazy right?  This is why they call it irrational fear.  I have often slept through tornadoes, watched as they have gone by (obviously many miles away), marveled at lightning storms and slept through those as well, tied to trees in a hammock no less. Why on earth would a little rain bother me? Don’t know. Sincerely.

Also, critters getting my food.  I have everything that I need to properly bag and hang my food to keep it reasonably out of the reach and off the olfactory radar of the general critter population.  Still can’t shake the fear they are going to masterfully abscond with my food stuffs half way in on my hike and I’ll be stuck hiking at least one if not two days with no food.  I have a public but well respected love affair with food. I won’t say I live to eat but I do love good food.  Being on the trail tends to increase my appetite two or three fold.  Many have marveled at the copious amounts of food I can put away and still be willing to graze or snack on a whim.  Could this really happen? Sure.  Is it likely? Not likely, given the measures put in place. Again, irrational.  See previous definition.

Will I overcome the fear?  I have no choice, at least in my own mind.  I’m going on this hike and will complete it.  I might even add to it should my pace and timing prove faster than planned.  It’s a new thing, to be certain. New things can be fearful.  However, they can also be exciting.  It’s a thin line between fear and exhilaration. Whenever possible I’m choosing to shove the emotion over to the exhilaration side of the fence….hard.  The fact that my friends, who don’t hang in hammocks, don’t hike and don’t get outdoors, are freaking out over these very things is almost a comfort to me. I know, sick isn’t it?  See, I know I can do it. I’ve been wet, cold, hungry, tired, hot, and lonely before.  Still breathing in and out.  Certainly enough to blog about it.

SO!  Once more into the breech my friends. I’m going and nothing will stop me.  Not even my irrational fears.  Now that plane falling out of the sky…..

It’s harder than it looks

So having embarked on the section hike planning in earnest the above phrase is coming to mind more and more as I work on this trip.  I am roughly two months away which at first seems like a long time and will it ever get here.  Then suddenly it seems like I will not have enough time to do all that I need to do to be prepared.  Fitness, FAK (first aid kit) setup, logistics, meals, travel, and the thousand other things I haven’t thought of.  I hear Donald Rumsfeld in my ear going, “We have known unknowns and unknown  unknowns, and things we know we know. Then there’s the other stuff your forgetting manerd.”  Out damn spot, out!  Maybe I should attempt a post were everything is a quote from a movie, TV show or play.  Let’s save that for another time, shall we.

Take travel for instance.  I live in Mississippi and want to get to Atlanta, GA.  Please know that MS is no longer in the stone age.  Heck, we’ve even progressed past the steam age.  We wear shoes and everything and I quit dating my sister years ago. Unfortunately with all those advances in technology, transportation and moral and genetic tomfoolery done with, it’s harder than it looks.

The initial idea was to take the bus.  Know that I haven’t ridden a commercial public transit bus in over two decades.  I’m praying things have advanced but I’m told, not really.  I’m okay with it cause it’s cheap. As of this posting, $50 one way to Atlanta, GA.  That’s cheap.  Less than a tank of gas that would definitely not get me to Atlanta in my personal car.  I’m willing to dive into the deep end of the people of WalMart gene pool to save a few bucks.  Problem is, I have to catch a bus at 4 a.m. to be in Atlanta by 2 p.m. the same day.  Still not bad but a long ride to be certain.  Also, there is the unbelievable security measures for the luggage on the bus.  I’m going on a hike.  There are certain thing you take with you on a hike.  Knife, cook kit, fuel, tent stakes…all verboten for even checked luggage under the bus.  I understand the fuel. I get that.  But the rest, under the bus while I’m ridding in the bus at 70 MPH.  How am I gonna get to the tent stake to hold at the driver’s throat to hi-jack the bus so we can go to Disney where I can seek asylum in the It’s a Small World After All ride instead of going to Atlanta?

Now I’m looking to just fly.  Decidedly, not cheap, but still cheaper than driving myself and dealing with a car left behind.  Plus, I can pack anything into the backpack, sans fuel, and check the baggage and travel in half the time and twice the style. Karma will likely put me next to a two year old with an ear ache at 10,000 feet.  That’ll teach me to pee in the bus gene pool.

Now I have to decide departure dates. Trying to save vacation days, which are like gold, for the end of the year when I can have some extra quality time with the wife and kids. Price matters here as well since the flight is over $100 cheaper if I leave on a Wednesday instead of a Thursday.  Oh well, one extra day on the trail.  A couple more meals to pack.

I think the physical exertion on the trail will be a welcome respite compared to this madness.

I hope to post on the FAK I’m setting up later this weekend and perhaps a surprise in the clothing department. Scary!

Till then…..HYOH.

The tip of a dream

For many years I’ve harbored a dream.  I don’t remember when it was or how old I was.  I suspect I was in my twenties when I read an article in a magazine. Can’t even remember the magazine but the article was about this guy who decided he was going to hike the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.  Phenomenal. To do such a thing was unfathomable to me. To hike 2178 miles over the course of 4 to 6 months was awe inspiring. I wanted to do that.  But how?

Thus began the on again off again sporadic reading of accounts on the AT and hikers adventures across this wonderful swath of green and rock and dirt and distance. This is no small thing.  Small people may attempt it but should they complete it, they will have stepped into a realm of greatness not easily measured in this world by mere men. Even today when I speak of this dream out loud, the instantaneous responses are profoundly amusing to me.  “You’re out of your mind.” “You can’t do that.” Why would you do that?”  “That is insane, I can’t believe you would think about that.”  At each rebuff I find myself grinning as though I’m the only sane one in the room and they are all children with no understanding of what is being presented to them. Silly rabbits, long distance hikes are for giants.  I know giants, and you sir or madame, are no giant.

The dream turned down the path that leads to reality about two years ago.  I got back into the woods camping and was able to do some hiking (modest by comparison to say the least) and fall in love with the outdoors all over again.  I have a young son who has enjoyed the camping and hiking some and has been an excellent opportunity to bring us closer together and give us a common interest to enjoy. But hammocks have truly opened the doors of imagination and possibility like nothing else. To sleep in blissful comfort. To have an elevated perspective, as we call it. To cradle a body that suffers from the perils of a misspent youth, is nothing short of a miracle and has allowed me to get out more in the last year than I’d done in over 40 years.  Hammocks have been the tipping point of this dream turning to the potential that it could truly happen.  I’ll blog later on hammocks. Trust me, I can go on for hours.  This is about the dream of the AT.

So fast forward to or flash back depending on your perspective, to my wife back at the first of this year trying to decide where we could do a family vacation. We have two kids, Noah who is twelve (will be thirteen in October – heaven help us) and Bailey who turned 9 in February.  She looked at beaches, out east, out west, up north and everywhere else one looks when thinking of ideas for such a venture.  I quietly suggested we go back to the Smokies. We had had a good time in that tourist trap of commercial hillbilly capitalism that runs from Sevierville to Gatlinburg, TN.  It’s campy and crazy and full of fast fun and silliness.  It is also a hare’s breath away from, you guessed it, the AT.  The AT runs through the GSMNP (Great Smoky Mountain National Park) and is easily accessible by numerous roads and trail heads in that area.

Now I’m not a foolish man.  I mention nothing of my ulterior motives to the wife or the kids.  It’s all about the things we didn’t do the last time we were there and how we had such a good time with the kids and I’m selling it,selling it, selling it. Hard.  And well.  Now before you begin to accuse me of manipulation, let me just stop you right there and tell you.  I am.  I own it proudly.  In the vernacular, it’s a win win for everyone involved. They have a great time, I have a great time and my dream gets a little taste to see if it is everything I’ve built it up to be in my mind.

I’ve read over a dozen books on the subject over the last year and seen in print the good, the bad, and the ugly of hiking 2100 miles in snow, rain, muck, heat, bugs, snake, bears, rock, and wind day in and day out for months.  Now that didn’t sound very appealing.  To be certain, it is no cake walk (pun intended). My vision of this is hard, uncomfortable, dangerous.  It is also potentially rewarding, cathartic, enlightening, and epic.

She and the kids bite the bait, darn near swallow it whole and I’ve masterfully set the hook and have all but reeled them in and cooked them up.  Mission accomplished.  Now to get the pan ready.  I say to the wife, “How about I go ahead of you guys and get a couple days in hiking and meet you in Sevierville?”  She looks knocked off kilter just slightly but she knows this hiking and hammock disease is terminal.  I’m not letting go of that and being the gracious and loving wife she is, says in a confused and cautious tone, “I guess, so. That seems okay.” She’s worried I’ll be eaten by a bear. Possible. I’m a little gamey at my age.  She’s worried I’ll get lost.  Possible but there are literally hundreds of people on the trail at this time of year also looking for a piece of the dream. While I’ll be alone, I’ll never truly be alone.

Thus begins the tip of the dream.  In late May I will be doing a section hike of the AT.  Nothing grandiose.  Just 30 or so miles over 4 days, on my own.  Why do it you are still thinking. Well, to see if a full blown thru hike is even a possibility for me.  To me, the greatest regret would be to start that adventure only to discover a few days or weeks in that I don’t have the metal to do it.  That I was a small person, unable to do this great thing.  That would be a disappointment I don’t think I could live with.

So this is a test.  I have every confidence in my equipment. I know that I know that I know I have the correct, lightest, most efficient and essential items needed for me to complete a thru hike.  I have every confidence in my physical ability.  I’m not an Adonis.  I’m a grinder.  I have the ability to put my head down and do the work. Slow and steady, hour after hour after hour.  In some ways, it appeals to me.  No, these are not areas of concern.  For me, it’s the mental aspect.  I enjoy being alone, me time. However, days on end of just me, myself and I can be mentally challenging.  The daily get up, hike, eat, hike more, eat more, hike even more, stop, eat, sleep, repeat, again, and again, and again….this can make for a type of madness some are neither prepared for or capable of surviving.  It won’t be the bear that eats you but the gray matter melting that does you in.  Those who have done the AT from Georgia to Maine will tell you that the trail is 90% mental.  Overcoming injuries, loneliness, being homesick, being sick, tired, wet, cold, hot, covered in dirt, flies and your own particular odoriferous funk can drive you to madness, or worse, to quit.

I’ll continue to blog about the preparations, the plans and ultimately the actual hike.  I’m not counting on a particular outcome either way.  I know, and I think my wife knows, that I’ll either get this AT thru idea out of my system, or it will be moved from dream to goal and more madness will ensue.  Either way, I’ll be happy with the outcome. I won’t be chasing after vain things wasting energy or I’ll be blissfully grinding and honing the dream to a fine edge and when I do it, I’ll do it. A great thing.  A grand thing. Something epic.

Hills Worth Dying For; the Work Edition

In the interest of full disclosure, one should know that while I am not old, I am what most would by definition consider “old school”.  I’m even a little put off by the term because it at once classifies me and labels the current and sub-current generations of working men. Depending on your perspective, a compliment to me and an indictment of the latter.  It should be noted that the converse could also be the case.

I grew up a milkman’s kid and so accordingly I worked the route with my Dad in the summer time and got a free education on work ethic, square dealing, taking care of people in general not just because they are your customer and flirting with every woman every place we went regardless of how pretty (or not) she was.  These things were and still are of great value to me in my daily life. Especially flirting with women.

From all of that education I developed a sense of responsibility to those who employed me.  I work for them and a pay check but there is a sense of honor and dignity that drives me to make their business better and to protect it from any danger, including from within, sometimes it’s own ownership.

Now before you think I’m patting myself on the back or singing my praises or before any of you start to pat me on the back or sing my praise, know that I see this as a blessing and not of myself. I will give all the praise that may come from this work “style” to God. I am fully aware that He has orchestrated my life and my life experiences to yield this vary trait and non of this is original to me. If I am a gifted vessel it is because He has made me so.  Nothing more.

My previous job was a hell on earth.  I ran operations for a furniture start up in another state for the better part of two yeasr.  Why would I do it if it was hell?  Well, like most things, it didn’t start out that way. It started out great and over time I was given more responsibility and asked to do more leadership in the company.  The trouble began when I saw issues coming up that needed to be addressed by ownership and key decisions made to further the company.  I spoke frankly but respectfully to ownership about it and was continually told, “We appreciate all that you are doing for us and we understand what you need.  Just hang in there with us a little longer and we’ll get there.”  Problem was these were promises that would not be kept.  The ownership team had a difference of opinions on how the company should be set up, which business plan we would follow, how we should buy product, and many more minor issues but all of it added up to a dysfunctional vision for where the company was going and I was tasked with making all of it run as smoothly as possible.  If it had four legs and someone could sit on it or two legs and worked in the place, I was responsible for it. This included the physical buildings as well. To say that it was frustrating to be held responsible but be completely unheard when I showed them clearly and plainly what the issues were and how to resolve them, would be a gross understatement.  Add to that the fact that my family were still living in another state some 500 miles away and I was able to see them, at best, every other weekend.

The tragedy was that I let it all get to me. It turned me into a person I hated, was ashamed off and I took a few really good people down with me. I was able to part ways with the company reasonably but the damage was done.

I managed to get back home with the family and was fortunate to find a job quickly (at less than half what I was making) that was pretty much the exact opposite of the stress level I was under in the previous job.  It was about this time that I discovered hammocks and rediscovered camping and this was a great benefit in the healing process. It’s a small company but definitely a leader in their market and I have been able to bring a lot of experience and productive processes to the table to help them grow and support the growth over the last three years.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago where I hit the wall so to speak.  I had been advising ownership for the better part of three years that they needed to get their personal “junk” out of the warehouse.  It was taking up valuable real estate and was not generating revenue for the business.  I had also been telling them for the better part of two years that the time was quickly approaching when the warehouse would be maxed out due to current levels of buying and greatly increased sales.  All, falling on deaf ears. It all came to a head when several weeks ago I’m literally stacking merchandise where I can, still factory wrapped, un-inspected because there is no where to put anything more in the warehouse. To further exacerbate the issue, we had a record January meaning we would have record receipts in February and there was no where to receive it.  I spoke politely but frankly to my boss and the owners and reminded them that I was being held responsible for all this but was not being given the assistance I needed and had asked for two years running.  I then reminded them that I quit a job that paid me more than double what I was making now for the same reason.

Was I really willing to quit because no one would listen to me? Yes, yes I was. Not out of spite or anger but out of an understanding that I had been in that same position just a few short years ago. Tasked with a particular responsibility and held accountable for the results but not given the tools to do it with or listened to when asking for help.  There will be some that would say I should have taken more control and just done what needed to be done.  Others will say I should have sucked it up and done the best I could.  Well, they may be right. The point is I’m old school. I’m willing to be accountable, to make the hard decisions and be held responsible if it all goes to, well, you know.  I take it seriously, perhaps too much so, and I don’t compromise on this.  I simply don’t know how to.  Too much milkman’s kid in me to do it any other way.

For me, to not become what I had seen myself become in that previous job (a grade A jerk), to not have to go through the pain and shame of what happened there, was a hill worth dying for. There are and will be others.  The thing is I can only recognize them by past experience and staying grounded in the word of God.  To know truth and what is good and holy and righteous and of good repute is only found by studying the genuine article.  When they train Treasury agents to spot counterfeits, they don’t use counterfeits, they use the genuine article. They study and know the real deal bill so completely, they can spot a fake a mile away.

I’m still doing the same job, but I’m working hard to make sure that I not only protect and prosper the company but also protect myself as well.  May God grant me the grace and wisdom to know which hills are worth dying for.